87. When ‘Blah’ Is As Good As It Gets, You Might Be Languishing

When you describe your mood as “blah,” “meh,” “decent, but not great,” you might be LANGUISHING, which can dampen your mood, impact your work and conflict with your ability to experience ease, meaning and joy! In the last few years, the feeling of languishing has been pervasive and profound, especially for women. But there is hope! Join us as we explore this topic and discover simple actions that can help you move from languishing to flourishing.

SHOWNOTES

We have a new word to describe our experience at work – LANGUISHING.  Crina and Kirsten check in with the smart people and the data to figure out languishing.  According to the American Psychology Association, languishing is the condition of absence of mental health, characterized by ennui, apathy, listlessness, and loss of interest in life.  Crina knows she is languishing when she is doom scrolling on her phone or computer.  Kirsten tends to be a Sunday languisher – when all of the activity and stress of the week catch up with her.

At work, languishing looks like:

  • Feeling disconnected or dissociated from your coworkers
  • Being irritable, confused, or sad
  • Inability to get excited about upcoming projects
  • Difficulty focusing or remembering 
  • Cynicism about your leaders, colleagues, or career
  • Procrastination or lack of motivation to complete assignments

Languishing is not a mental health disorder, but it is the opposite of flourishing. Lynn Soots describes flourishing as “the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life passions, and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life.”  Important note here – flourishing is a state of being – a process.

Research suggests those who languish are more likely to experience serious mental illness later. This can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and major depression. Adam Grant, in his famous New York Times article on languishing says, “[l]anguishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”  New evidence from pandemic health care workers in Italy shows that those who were languishing in the spring of 2020 were three times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Adam Grant suggests a few antidotes to languishing:

  • Focus on a small goal:  We want to cultivate a sense of progress. 
  • Give yourself some uninterrupted time: set boundaries with your time and normalize turning off your phone, email, etc – minimizing distractions when you are languishing is helpful because we are more vulnerable to distraction when we are languishing.
  • Find ways to see that you’re “making a difference to other people” This may be as simple as doing something kind or generous for a coworker or another person in your life.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman’s research on flourishing, the best way to move from languishing to flourishing is the PERMA model.. It stands for:

  • Positive emotions – create them
  • Engagement – get into “flow”
  • Relationships – receive and give support and intimacy from others
  • Meaning – ahh – the hard one – create a valuable and worthwhile life
  • Accomplishments – make progress.

And remember – flourishing is a process – not an end-game.

Are You Languishing? Here’s How to Regain Your Sense of Purpose

Adam Grant: How to stop languishing and start finding flow | TED Talk

Feeling Blah During the Pandemic? It’s Called Languishing – The New York Times

What To Say To Your “Languishing” Employees Post-Covid-19